My favorite musicians: #5

January 31st, 2018

Onto my top 5 – and at number five is one of the very few people who can write both brilliant melodies and resonant lyrics- Jimmy Webb. Much of Jimmy Webb’s best music has been donated to others -including entire brilliant albums such as the 5th Dimensions Magic Garden and the two Richard Harris albums that he wrote and produced. Of course, there’s Wichita Lineman, All I Know, and the yard goes on forever.

My favorite musicians: 6-10

January 28th, 2018

Some mostly sad musical news since my last post as we mourn South Africa legend Hugh Masekela and Mark E. Smith, as well as the retirement from touring of Niel Diamond, afflicted with Parkinson’s disease.

On that downbeat note, let’s move onto my favorite musicians in place 6 to 10, in no specific ranking order.

Saint Etienne: London hipsters who have been very prolific since 1991, and a part of my life for over 25 years. If one includes all their film soundtracks, B-sides and fan club music, there is a vast amount to enjoy. Not all of it is top notch, but much of it is very brilliant. And they love the Beach Boys.

Prefab Sprout: I’ve been teased for liking a group with that name, but anyone who has any ear for a great melody, and emotional lyrics will know that I will always have the last laugh. Paddy McAloon has been releasing music since the early 80s, and although not prolific, has been responsible for ten very worthwhile albums.

Scott Walker: A 60s musical idol who was more popular in Britain in 1966 than the Beatles, is now making the most difficult music released by anyone. The story of Scott Engel is stranger than fiction, and he is the archetype of someone staying true to himself. His five solo albums in late 60s and early 70s are the core of his brilliance, but there is much else to enjoy, even some of his “difficult” recent music.

Jam: Paul Weller started in the punk era but soon trod his own path, with many nods to classic 60s music. As a Jam member, in the Style Council and solo, there is much to enjoy, in many different styles.

Buffalo Springfield: In themselves a pioneering 60s group, even although they only released three albums. However, as the first group of Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richard Furay, their influence and new music continues to this day.


My favorite musicians: 11-20

January 21st, 2018

Before we look at the next 10 of my favorites, it is appropriate to mourn another loss in the rock world. Jim Rodford, who had close associations with the Zombies and Kinks, as well as many other bands, passed away yesterday. He was in the touring version of the Zombies that I was lucky enough to see in 2012.

Here are my artists ranked 11-20 . I haven’t done any ranking within the bands of 10. A reminder that this list is very personal, and exclusion, or lower ranking of an artist does not imply that I am conclusively saying they are not as good as my topped ranked musicians. It’s just about the music that works for me.

Simon And Garfunkel: An early favorite of mine -although the duo had only five proper albums, there is also plenty of great solo music from both of them.
Byrds: A hugely influential band, with Gene Clark, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Chris  Hillman and Gram Parsons all playing important roles in the development of pop, folk, rock and country.
Lucky Soul: One of the best “newer” bands around; was great to have them release new music last year after a bit of a break.
REM: Had some of their music before they became huge. They made some consistently good albums over more than 30 years.
Dexys: They have only releases five proper albums in over 35 years but these have contained some wonderful, emotionally-laden music.
Explorers Club: Another of my top “new” bands -they have released three consistently brilliant records.
Pernice Brothers: Joe Pernice has made a lot of thoughtful alternative pop records since 1991.
Association: One of the prime Sunshine Pop bands. Cherish was an early favorite, but there is a lot more to them.
Swan Dive: Bill de Main may not be a household name, but he is a top songwriter.
Belle And Sebastian: There are a few Scottish groups in my lists, but these are the top of my Scottish pops.

My favorite musicians: 21-30

January 20th, 2018

Before looking at my next 10 favorite musical artists, here is a link to a touching story about Brian Wilson’s school righting a wrong from 60 years ago. 

So here are my artists ranked 21-30 . I haven’t done any ranking within the bands of 10. A reminder that this list is very personal, and exclusion, or lower ranking of an artist does not imply that I am conclusively saying they are not as good as my topped ranked musicians. It’s just about the music that works for me.


Innocence Mission: Lovely mostly acoustic music from a husband and wife duo.
Free Design: Sunshine pop group who are quite obscure, but made a comeback in popularity in 2000s.
Hollies: Known for their 60s British pop, also responsible for one-third of Crosby, Stills and Nash.
October Project: Best known for their two 1990s albums, but are still around in various combinations and solo work.
Housemartins/Beautiful South: Paul Heaton’s two groups have been responsible for great British pop since the mid-80s.
Bee Gees: One of my first loves as I grew up in the Saturday Night Fever era. Their early music was my first real introduction to great 60s music.
Neko Case: Alternative country superstar who has made consistently good music since the 90s.
Fifth Dimension: One of the few on my list who are performers rather than songwriters, but are here for their great interpretation of Bacharach, Webb and other great writers.
High Llamas: First band I really got into based on internet discussions.
Kacey Musgraves: Became aware of her after her collaboration with Brian Wilson, but now rate her one of the best current songwriters.

My favorite musicians: 31-40

January 16th, 2018


As we remember Dolores o’Riordan and mourn her untimely passing, it’s time to look at the next 10 of my favorite artists. A reminder that this list is very personal, and exclusion, or lower ranking of an artist does not imply that I am conclusively saying they are not as good as my topped ranked musicians. It’s just about the music that works for me.

So here are my artists ranked 31-40 (I haven’t done any ranking within the bands of 10)

Swing Out Sister: Duo (for most of their career) who have been making great music since the 80s.
Love: I had the fortune to see Arthur Lee live a few years before he passed. A lot of their greatness is around the Forever Changes album, but there is a lot more to them.
David Bowie: More than just the chameleon of rock, Bowie pioneered and popularized many different genres.
Deacon Blue: Scottish group who have been making great rock/pop for over 30 years.
Magic Numbers: English group who have some Brian Wilson influence.
Orpheus: Lesser known sunshine pop with an edge -their first album is a personal favorite.
Wondermints: Should be given great credit for their role in Brian Wilson’s revival, but have enough of their own brilliant music to justify my ranking here.
Roger Nichols: You may pick up, as you go through these lists, that I favor songwriters more than interpreters, all other things being equal. Nichols has some of his own music, but is better known as a songwriter (We’ve Only Just Begun his best known).
Elvis Costello: Elvis started in the punk era but has made music in a number of genres, anchored in great pop songwriting.
A Girl Called Eddy: Erin Moran only has one full record, but based on this, and a few other odds and ends, is up there with my favorites. I hope there will be another album soon.

My favorite musicians: 41-50

January 13th, 2018

In honor of my recent “golden” birthday, I thought I would do some blogposts listing my 50 favorite musicians. My rankings are based semi-scientifically on the number of songs from each artist that I regard as a real favorite, but I have used some judgment in coming up with my top 50. I’ve also used the widest definition of the music of a particular band so if I include the Beatles, it would include all their solo music as well i.e. I won’t list each Beatle.

Clearly, this list is very personal, and exclusion, or lower ranking of an artist does not imply that I am conclusively saying they are not as good as my topped ranked musicians. It’s just about the music that works for me.

So here are my artists ranked 41-50 (I haven’t done any ranking within the bands of 10)

Lloyd Cole: Scottish singer who became a favorite with his Commotions while I was still at high school.
Waterboys: Another Scottish band that I got to know during high school.
Clash: “The only band that matters” – not a punk fan in general, but they have a lot of songs that resonate
Rodriguez: I wasn’t a fan in his first wave of South African popularity but the movie converted me. An artist who helped change a country
Rolling Stones: Probably lower than many people will have them, but this is a strong list!
Van Morrison: Another artist who has been on my playlists for many years.
Zombies: Underrated and intelligent band who I am very glad to have seen perform live.
Crowded House: Neil Finn is a top songwriter. Also glad to have seen them live.
Roy Orbison: From the original school of rock and roll, the Caruso of rock was an early pioneer.
Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On? is still as relevant in 2017, Symphony was our wedding dance.

A Sad Start

January 5th, 2018


While we still go into the new year with optimism ,  there have been some sad stories at the start of the year. A terrible rail crash has happened in my country, while in Beach Boys-related news, we have seen the sad demise of Betty Jane Willis. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, she was the lead singer of Rachel and the Revolvers, who put out a Brian Wilson penned and produced single.  Her murder in a homeless camp is a particularly sad ending to a life that no doubt began with so much optimism that she could become a musical success.

23 Songs For The New Year

January 3rd, 2018

2) SOMEONE ELSE (1958) (Art Garfunkel)
4) LOVE GROWS (Edison Lighthouse): First UK#1 of the 70s.
7) NEED YOU NOW (Lady Antebellum)
8) 1900 YESTERDAY (Liz Damon & The Orient Express)
9) GIVE ME LOVE (Lucky Soul)
10) WHAT’S GOING ON (Marvin Gaye)
12) TRUE FAITH (New Order)
14) I WILL ALWAYS (Roy Orbison)
15) DOOD’S BROW (Saint Etienne)
16) TELSTAR (Tornados)
17) CALIFORNIA SON (Tripsitter)
18) ELENORE (Turtles)
19) WALK DON’T RUN (Ventures)
20) YOUR SCHOOL (Paul McCartney)
21) MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF (Walker Brothers)
22) SHE OPENS HEAVEN’S DOOR (Wondermints)

Remembering The Magic Gardens Of 1967/2017

December 31st, 2017

The 5th Dimension - The Magic Garden.jpg In remembering 2017, there is a natural inclination to also remember the original Summer of Love in 1967, 50 years ago. Being the year that I also turned 50, there an even greater inclination to reflect back to that pivotal year that I have no real memory of, but have many musical mementos to call upon.

1967 was the year of Sgt. Pepper and it’s less known but equally interesting Magical Mystery Tour.  The Beach Boys failed to release SMiLE but Brian and the boys were actually quite productive, both in releasing albums, performing live and recording songs. There were a lot of other great albums, not least of all Forever Changes. Another great record, released late in December 1967 and previously reviewed on this blog, was The Magic Garden, Jimmy Webb’s masterpiece, performed by the Fifth Dimension and reflecting the ups and downs of the era, and life in general.

50 years later the music overall isn’t as great, but there are pockets of brilliance, in hearing more unheard gems from the Beach Boys from the many Sunshine Tomorrow releases, but also in some great new music, not least from the likes of Lucky Soul and Saint Etienne. Brian Wilson also reminded us that he has been a lot more than just a Beach Boy, but also a very viable solo artist for more than half his musical career.

2017 was a year of a lot of pain for the world, as the bad decisions of 2016 became more real. However, with Mugabe out and Zuma down, for the first time in many years, my part of the world begins 2018 with some real hope. It was also the year that I got married. So we begin 2018 with cautious optimism – I wish all the readers a wonderful year, both musically and otherwise.

23 Songs For Today

December 28th, 2017

1) Let It Be    -The Beatles
2) Caribbean Wind    -Bob Dylan
3) Solid Rock    -Bob Dylan
4) Theme From Harry’s Game    -Clannad
5) In A Lifetime    -Clannad
6) And Yes We Must Remain The Wildhearted Outsiders    -Dexy’s Midnight Runners
7) The Celtic Soul Brothers    -Dexy’s Midnight Runners
8) All In All This One Last Wild Waltz    -Dexy’s Midnight Runners
9 ) And Winter Came    -Enya
10) Oriel Window    -Enya
11) Morning Glory   – Enya
12) May It Be    -Enya
13) You’ll Never Walk Alone    -Gerry & The Pacemakers
14) Whatever Happened to Christmas?    -Jimmy Webb
15) Ribbons and Bows    -Kacey Musgraves
16 Listen to the Bells Ring   -Lisa Mychols
17) Codail a Linbh (Sleep O Child)    -Moya Brennan
18) Chicago –   Sufjan Stevens
19) Mystery of Love   -Sufjan Stevens
20) New Year’s Day    -U2
21) Deweller On The Threshold    -Van Morrison
22) Foreign Window   -Van Morrison
23) Queen Of The Slipstream    -Van Morrison